Saving Face While Geeking Out: Video Game Testing as a Justification for Learning Computer Science

Authors: Betsy James Disalvo, Mark Guzdial, Amy Bruckman, Tom Mcklin


Why would individuals who are capable of learning opt not to? Learning is important for stability and success. It would seem rational that students in groups that are frequently underrepresented or marginalized would be motivated to learn. However, negotiation of multiple identities and self-beliefs can impact motivations to learn. For example, young African American males frequently adopt a “cool pose” in their approach to education. They maintain that they do not care and will not try to be a part of the existing educational system. To better understand these issues, we studied African American males in the Glitch Game Testers program. High school students in the Glitch program worked as paid game testers and took workshops in computer science. More than 65% of the participants went on to study computing after high school. We found that these students persisted with education and computing because they navigated around motivations to not learn by creating many different faces for their involvement with Glitch. In this article, we explore the use and design implications of face-saving tactics these young men used to “geek out” on computer programming, choose computer science for their career, and maintain their current identities with friends and families.

Disalvo, Betsy & Guzdial, Mark & Bruckman, Amy & Mcklin, Tom. (2014). Saving Face While Geeking Out: Video Game Testing as a Justification for Learning Computer Science. Journal of the Learning Sciences. 23. 1-44. 10.1080/10508406.2014.893434.

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